Pelosi’s Asian tour kicks off under Taiwan cloud

American house Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off an Asia tour on Monday that has been shrouded in secrecy following escalating tensions with China over Taiwan.

Unsure whether Pelosi will visit the island, she first stopped in Singapore, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged her in a meeting to seek “stable” ties with Beijing.

His itinerary also includes Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, but a possible visit to Taiwan dominated the spotlight as he approached.

Reports of a planned visit to the island have angered Beijing and caused unease at the White House, with President Joe Biden trying to bring the temperature down.

Beijing views self-governing Taiwan as its territory – to be seized one day, by force if necessary – and has said it would view a visit by Pelosi as a major provocation.

Pelosi’s office confirmed his trip to Asia in a statement Sunday after his plane was in the air, after days of US media speculation and the speaker refusing to confirm his itinerary.

“The trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said, referring to Asia-Pacific.

The statement does not mention Taiwan. But the visits of American officials on the spot are generally kept secret until the arrival of the delegations.

And as speculation mounted, CNN and Taiwan’s TVBS on Monday cited unnamed sources to report that Pelosi does indeed plan to include the island in his Asia tour.

– ‘Bury all enemies’ –

The Global Times, China’s public tabloid, suggested that Pelosi could use “emergency excuses like plane failure or refueling” to land at a Taiwanese airport.

“If she dares to stop in Taiwan, now will be the time to set fire to the powder keg of the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” tweeted Hu Xijin, former Global Times editor and now commentator.

And the Chinese army’s Eastern Theater Command shared images on social media site Weibo showing a combat-ready army with fighters and helicopters taking off, amphibious troops landing on a beach and a stream of missiles raining down on various targets.

“We will bury all enemies who invade our territory,” reads a short text accompanying the sequence.

“We are ready to fight,” he added. “Advancing towards a common fight and a victorious war.”

Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of invasion, but the threat has intensified under Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The United States maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of an invasion by China.

If he diplomatically recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei, he also supports the democratic government of Taiwan and opposes any forced change in the status of the island.

US officials often make low-key visits to Taiwan to show support, but a trip to Pelosi would be more publicized than any in recent history.

The Taiwanese government has remained silent on the prospect of a visit by Pelosi, and local media coverage has been minimal.

“I really hate what the Chinese are doing,” Hsu Ching-feng, a fruit vendor in Taipei, told AFP.

“But there’s nothing we ordinary people can do about it but ignore them. I’m just going to ignore them.

– ‘Bad target’ –

As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is second in line to the US presidency and one of the most powerful politicians in the country.

The last House speaker to visit was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Biden and Xi had a tense phone call last week clouded by disagreements over Taiwan.

Xi issued an oblique warning to the United States not to “play with fire” on the island.

Speculation about Pelosi’s plans in Taiwan has coincided with increased military activity in the region.

US officials have sought to downplay a visit by Pelosi, appealing to Chinese leaders for calm.

Kharis Templeman, a Taiwan expert at the Hoover Institution, said Beijing “misinterpreted US policy and messed up their signage” with its intense reaction.

“They picked the wrong target. Biden does not control the President or any other member of Congress,” he tweeted on Sunday.

“They drew the line to the Speaker of the House, on a visit rich in symbolism but of limited practical value. And now it will be politically costly for Pelosi not to go, or for Xi not to respond. by something dramatic.

In Taiwan, opinions are divided on the prospect of Pelosi’s visit, but senior ruling party and main opposition figures have said the island should not bow to Chinese pressure.

“If Pelosi were to cancel or postpone the trip, it would be a victory for the Chinese government and for Xi because it would show that the pressure he exerted had some desired effects,” said Hung Chin-fu, of the National Cheng Kung. from Taiwan. University, told AFP.